Cocktail Chatter

Baby High Heels, Baseball Murders, and Africa’s Borat

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

This week, Slatehas revived, in a somewhat new form, Cocktail Chatter, a feature invented by James Suroweicki in the late ‘90s when he was our business columnist. Cocktail Chatter, which will come out on Fridays, calls out the most intriguing Slate stories of the week and will give you clever talking points for your weekend wine-and-cheese parties, cocktail hours, and keggers.

10) “The Most Interesting Man in the World: The star of Dos Equis’ new ad campaign is too cool to shill beer,” by Seth Stevenson.
The commercials, infused with Wes Anderson-style eccentricity, worship a celebrity too suave to be real. But he’s an incredibly effective beer pitchman.

9) “The Bankruptcy Parasites: GM’s Chapter 11 filing will be bad news for everyone—except the lawyers, accountants, and paper-pushers who’ll make a mint off it,” by Daniel Gross.
GM’s bankruptcy proceedings will be much lengthier than Chrysler’s jiffy-quick filing, and that will cost the company’s shareholders and debtors. The total bill for the lawyers and accountants who will shepherd GM’s bankruptcy filing is expected to reach $1.2 billion.

8) “How Do They Pick the Words for the National Spelling Bee?” By looking in shopping catalogs,” by Nina Shen Rastogi.
The selection committee, which includes a dictionary editor and former bee winners, has a penchant for words with foreign origins and etymological quirks, words from shopping catalogs, and eponyms.

7) “First, Take a Deep Breath: Obama shouldn’t respond too quickly, or too aggressively, to the North Korean nuclear test,” by Fred Kaplan.
President Obama has few ways to pressure the nuke-happy Hermit Kingdom. Sanctions won’t work; military action would be catastrophic. Our best bet is to wait and hope China gets angrier at its ally.

6) “Don’t Buy It Now: What to avoid on eBay—and what’s still worth shopping for on the venerable auction site,” by Farhad Manjoo.
Give eBay a second chance. You should still use it to buy second-hand computers, other consumer electronics, and brand-name clothes. Skip the concert and sports tickets and the computer components.

5) “Shredded Weed: Taking the fun out of marijuana,” by William Saletan.
A British pharmaceutical company has designed a cannabis product that relieves pain and spasms but doesn’t give the user a high. What’s so great about that?

4) ” ’I Am Looking for Wife 1,000’: Prince Zimboo, hip-hop’s African Borat,” by Jona Weiner.
World music prankster Prince Zimboo claims to be a polygamist from the African rain forest. He’s probably a very witty Jamaican producer.

3) “The Craigslist Sex Panic: How shutting down its ‘erotic services’ section hurts prostitutes and cops,” by Melissa Gira Grant.
Craigslist’s now-defunct erotic services section let hookers protect themselves by doing precoital background checks on clients and helped police nab abusive Johns.

2) “You’re Out: The national pastime’s shocking death toll,” by Jon Mooallem.
Thrown balls, batted balls, lightning, pencil-sharpening … the list goes on. In Death at the Ballpark, two historians chronicle baseball’s 850-and-counting fatalities. Slate’s reviewer sees “something slightly uplifting” about it.

1) “The Sotomayor Mystery: Why didn’t she explain herself in this year’s big race case?” by Emily Bazelon.
In Ricci v. DeStefano, a white firefighter claimed the city of New Haven was reverse-discriminating when the fire department changed its promotion policy. Sotomayor’s written opinion in Ricci bypassed the most pressing questions about civil rights. Expect her evasions to be targeted during the confirmation hearings. (See Slate’s complete coverage of the nomination.)